August 1, 2021
Our world is hurting right now. Social media has become a platform for airing your opinions and condemning those who don’t agree with you. Politics has become a battleground that seeks to divide rather than unite. And our culture has become so rife with strife, that even the simplest of disagreements over race or vaccines has created a conflict among us that’s wearing on us. It’s creating conflict among families, it’s hurting our friendships, and it’s even impacting the Church. This doesn’t just trouble me as a person, but as pastor. The world is influencing the way people are relating with one another today. And it’s not good.
But did you ever stop to think that the current state of affairs in our culture actually presents an opportunity for God’s people? After all, when deception, strife, selfishness and verbal assault are the rule of the day, we have an opportunity to step in and show the world another that there’s another way to relate with one another.
In a world of growing deception and misinformation, the Church can be known for its honesty and reliability. In a world filled with anger and conflict, the Church can be known for its peacemaking and harmony. In a world growing increasingly entitled and self-centered, the Church can be known for its usefulness and generosity. And in a world known for character assassination and condemnation, the Church can be known for its gracious ways of relating with one another. In other words, when God’s people embrace God’s ways of relating with one another, we can show the world that there’s truly another way to live.
And that’s what we’re going to dig into today from God’s Word as we continue our Rock Springs Reboot series. So, if you brought your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to find Ephesians 4:25-29, where God’s Word gets very specific in showing us how we can show the world that there’s another way to relate. How we are to treat one another in ways that are helpful, not hurtful. How we can be different. In fact, in these verses God gives us four ways we can be different in the way we relate to our fellow man.
Now what’s great about each of these ways, is that each one of them is an application from last week’s message. If you were here last week, we unpacked the contrast between our old life without God and our new life with God. We learned that living without God was a dead-end life leading us nowhere. We learned that living without God, left us ignorant of God and His will. And we learned that living without God is a diminished way of life. But the good news is that now God has given us a new way of life with Jesus. Life with Jesus changes us. We no longer have to be defined by our past, but can now be define by Jesus. And that happens as we continually cast aside the empty ways of the old life, and put on the new ways of life in Christ. So here now God’s Word describes four ways we can now begin to live differently. And the first way is found in verse 25:
Be Truthful I like how Paul starts this. He says, Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:25
Paul assumes that since the truth is found in Jesus, the first thing we do as followers of Jesus is put away falsehood. We put away deception, dishonesty, lying. We no longer have anything to do with falsehood, because we know Him who is true.
You see, falsehood, lying, has its origin in the Devil, the father of lies, the Deceiver. His first lie in the garden was what broke the relationship between Adam and Eve and God. When our first parents fell for the lie, they thought: “God, I don’t believe you are good. I don’t believe you really love me or want what’s best for me. I believe you are holding me back. I don’t like that, so I’m not going to trust you anymore.” That’s what happens when we buy into the lies of the evil one.
But once we come to trust in Jesus, we no longer believe this lie. The entire foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ is based on flipping this lie. You now believe God is good. You now believe God will do what is best for you, because God already gave His best for you when He gave you Jesus. So, you trust in Him. You trust him for salvation. You trust him for forgiveness. You trust that He loves you and will never stop loving you. You trust now that His ways are better than your ways. So, you put aside falsehood and put on truth. For in Jesus is truth.
Now you want nothing to do with what is false. And that includes your relationships with God’s people. Now you want to speak the truth in love with your neighbor. You want to be honest with your shortcomings. Now you are authentic in your relationships. Now you are becoming a man or woman of your word!
And when all God’s people become truthful in this way, we create something beautiful together: We create a community of trust. And we become a community where everyone is looking out for one another, rather than a world where everyone only looks out for number one… a community where no one betrays a confidence; a community where you are believed in, not condemned; a community where we tell one another: “You can count on me!” “I will not mislead you or cause you harm.”
Now that’s different. When we put away falsehood and put on truth, we treat one another right! This is the way God intended for us to live. And when we do this we show the world a different way to live. Our world is hungry for truth, for authenticity. So, yes this is a great opportunity for us to be different, by being truthful in our relationships with one another. Here now is a second way we are to treat one another:
Be Peaceful! This one is so cool because we are not told to put off anger. Instead, we are told: Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27
Now why does he tell us to be angry and do not sin. Here’s why: There are two kinds of anger. There is a righteous anger and an unrighteous anger. There is a righteous anger that comes from love. Genuine love cannot help but be angered at that which injures the object of love. I’ll give you an example from Jesus: When Jesus upended the tables in the temple and threw out the money changers, he was exhibiting righteous anger. What was the reason? “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers” Matthew 21:13. What made Jesus angry, was that the court of the temple that had been turned into a market, was the court of the Gentiles. It was the place where all the nations could come and pray. But the Jews were excluding the Gentiles by making worship more convenient for themselves. And it was this exclusion that angered Jesus. That’s righteous anger.
Now, anger that is sin, is anger that is self-defensive and self-serving, that is resentful of what is done against oneself. Anger is what happens when we don’t get our own way. Anger that is selfish, undisciplined, and vindictive is sinful and has no place even temporarily in the Christian life. That’s why Paul now gives some wisdom for handling our anger correctly.
Be angry, but do not sin: We have to make sure that our anger is free from injured pride, spite, malice, animosity, and the spirit of revenge. Rather than act in anger, we are to seek reconciliation. We are to be peacemakers not avengers. We are not to take matters into our own hands. As the Bible says: Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rom. 12:17-19
Be angry, but do not let the sun go down on your anger: Anger in itself is not sinful, but it can quickly become sin, if we don’t deal with it. That’s why Paul says, Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. God is a God of reconciliation. He came to resolve our differences – to create peace. When we leave differences unresolved, we leave potential for the deceiver to cause division among us. So, we are to keep short accounts – to be like God and seek to reconcile differences before the day ends.
Becky and I have always committed to doing this from the very beginning of our marriage. We’ve always made it a point to not to go to bed angry. Sometimes early in our marriage that meant we lost a little sleep. But what a great practice. We fight for harmony in our marriage. And God wants us to fight for harmony in all our relationships. Will we mess up? Will there be differences of opinion on how we do things? Will there be times we don’t meet expectations? What will we do at those times? We need to be careful not to hold onto anger but keep short accounts. It’s not wise to allow those embers to smolder.
Be angry, but do not give an opportunity for the devil The evil one knows how hard human beings find it to handle their anger responsibly. So, he loves to lurk round angry people, looking for ways to exploit the situation to his own advantage by provoking them into hatred and violence. So how do we keep the devil from provoking us to anger? Fill yourself with God’s love. Remember, God’s love is not easily angered. God’s love does not keep a record of wrongs. If you want to protect yourself from the devil’s scheme to make you angry, then live your life in the shadow of the cross. Thank Jesus for dying for you. And the more you fill your heart with God’s love, the less chance the devil will have to take advantage of you.
I’ve spent a great deal of time on this section for a couple of reasons. One, is that every Christian man I know has struggled with anger at one time or another. And two, it is very apparent to me that taking advantage of our anger is one of the greatest schemes of the evil one today. If he can divide us, he can defeat us. And if there’s one thing that’s apparent in our culture today is that people are angry today. But God calls us to be different. We need to be slow to anger and rich in love, like God. And we need to be peacemakers in world where there is little peace. And when we do that, we not just be different, and not only will we show the world a better way, but we will instill hope.
Alright, we’ve seen two ways we can be different than what we once were. We can be truthful and we can be peacemakers. Let’s look now at the third way we are to be different. We can…
Be Useful Now, it is a temptation to just skip over this one. But God won’t let me. So let me read this for us: Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:28 Now the reason it is a temptation to skip over this one, is that it commands us to stop stealing. So, we think this doesn’t apply to us, because we’ve worked hard to arrive in this place and life, and stealing was not part of that. But here’s the thing: The motive behind stealing, is putting your needs above everyone else. It’s a selfish way to live. It’s the mindset behind the notion that the world owes you a living, or the attitude behind an entitlement mentality. It’s the attitude that says, “What’s in it for me.” It’s the mindset that never considers how you might contribute to the needs of others.
So, when we are looking at how God would have us be different from the world, the mindset of a believer is opposite of the thief. It’s no longer, “What can I get for myself.” But “How might I give to help others.” So, in Ephesus it was about doing some honest hard work, so you might have something to give, rather than always looking to take. Now, since most of us here are retired, the truth we need to wrestle with is this: What am I doing with what God has blessed me with? Am I keeping it all for myself, and living just for my pleasures? Or do I see the blessings I’ve received as an opportunity to help others?
The idea is that God want us to be different from the world in how we view our assets. The Christian is not to be characterized as someone who takes, but as someone who gives. After all, “God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life!” Giving to help others is what makes us like God. God is a good and generous God. He gave His best for us. So the point here is not so much as to be useful, but to be useful for the sake of others – to give to help others in need.
And so we have ways we can do that. In a few months we will be participating once again in Operation Christmas Child, collecting toys and funds to pack as many shoe boxes as possible. Not just so children can receive material gifts, but so they might also receive the gift of Jesus Christ. Every month, we set aside part of our budget to help the ongoing work of Regeneration Church – a church in Ocean Beach, California that continues to reach the homeless, the drug-addicted and broken of that community. Because we give, Mark can preach and reach those who desperately need Jesus. And as a result of your generosity, just last week, Mark was able to baptize 7 men and one of his own children! God wants you to be useful to the advance of His kingdom. And one what you can be useful is by giving!
Okay, one last way in this passage that God would have us be different and that is this:
Be Gracious The way we speak must be different from that of the world. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Paul lays out three ways we can be gracious with our words. First, we are to…
Use words that build up, not tear down Having corrupt or foul language flowing from our mouths is simply inconsistent with the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Often the corrupt language we hear today is inflammatory, accusatory and condemning language. Such language is meant to slander and tear down another person. God wants us to be done with that way of speaking. As Proverbs says, The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
We are to be known as people who encourage, who point out the good, who bless with our words not curse. Secondly, we are to…
Use words that are appropriate for the occasion: Everything we say should be appropriate, according to the need of the moment. Now this is not easy. We need to train ourselves to say what is fitting for the moment. I think a great way to do that is to memorize Philippians 4:8, that says. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” In other words, as James says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” The more we train ourselves in this way, the more we can learn to say the right thing at the right moment. This is how Jesus lived. He was praised for his gracious words. This is what I want to be said of me. We hear so much criticism today. We are quick to give advice. But we need to learn how to sometimes just keep our mouths shut. Like my mom used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
And finally, we are to Use words that give grace to those who hear: I like how Paul instructs the Colossians in this manner. He says, Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 How do we do this? First, we eliminate put downs from our vocabulary. Then we never speak with accusing words. The accusing voice is not God’s voice. It’s the voice of the evil one. Then we learn to speak words of truth and grace into another. When was the last time someone told you something true about you that encouraged them?
I have a phrase for that. It’s this, “I see in you…”
“I see in you the compassion of Jesus when others are hurting.”
“I see in you the wisdom of Jesus in how you provide for your family.”
“I see in you the love of Jesus in how you make others feel welcome.”
“I see in you the faithfulness of Christ in how you fulfill your ministry.”
The next time you have a family dinner, or have guests over, or in your Journey Group try this. Speak grace into people and see what that does for them. This is a skill that if we can put into practice, this will not just set you apart as different, but you will make a difference in whoever it is you are encouraging!
So there you have it. Just four ways God would have us be different because Jesus lives in us: We can be truthful… We can be peaceful… We can be useful and We can be gracious!
And when we allow Christ to live through us in these ways, we will be different and people who are growing weary of the ways of the world will be drawn to us. They’ll see something different in us because we are different. And the difference they will see is Jesus.
So may the God of all grace, who gave us Jesus, so we might live like Him, help us to put off the old ways and put on the new, so they might see Jesus. Let’s pray.